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#325 Improving Literacy Skills – Early Years @ Highfield Whitehouse

Jo Tribe

What did we do?

I decided on this project to improve the literacy skills of our children through a focus on speech and language development. I identified through our data that this was the area of greatest need. We had staff training on Makaton and Look Who’s Talking. I then purchased new equipment for the reading and writing areas, this included story sack resources to help with our group times and a range of different mark making tools in different areas to improve fine motor skills. I carried out weekly listening and attention activities as this was highlighted as the greatest need for our children in terms of speech and language development. In addition I made information posters and leaflets for parents to encourage speech and language and reading at home.

“it’s good because it’s nice and cosy”

A child taking about our reading area.

Summary of impact

The new resources brought for the writing area and reading area worked really well. From talking to staff and my own observations. The children now use these areas a lot more and engage with a lot more mark making tools and equipment. The Makaton training was successful, staff now use a lot more Makaton throughout the session. The children are now starting to use Makaton as well during grouptimes and snack times. As a result of the look who’s talking training, we moved the sofa into the room which does seem to promote a nice place to sit and talk. I do also believe from my own observations of staff that the level of engagement with the children throughout the sessions has improved.

The story sacks I made have only been used by me. When I do use them I do see the level of engagement at group times does improve. From looking at the Wellcomm data 23 out of 28 children made expected or above progress. The children who didn’t progress were either ones with additional assessments being carried out or ones who I was not targeting support to as they were originally green when being assessed.

Steps taken

I undertook a process of problem identification, using a range of evidence to identify challenges and barriers within my setting. By looking at our Wellcomm data and assessment data from last year found the greatest need within our setting was speech and language skills. From this I considered a range of possible interventions, activities and solutions to my identified problem and selected the most appropriate approach. Then Wrote and redrafted a Securing Achievement action plan, acting on feedback from an Evidence Lead in Education. To inform my action plan I talked to staff to see where they felt we needed improvements what things they felt might help.

Once the action plan was finalised I organised the training and brought the items that we felt would help spending the £2000 budget. I made the story sacks and started using them with the children at group times and encouraged other staff to use them. I carried out Wellcomm assessments on all the children and was going to implement Wellcomm activities for those that needed it. However after carrying out the Wellcomm assessments I felt that listening and attention activities where needed more so carried these. Looking at the Wellcomm data was how I assessed the impact of the project. After our Look Who’s Talking training there was much discussion with staff about how we could better arrange the room and moved the sofa which was in the lobby into the classroom to encourage talking.

Following our Makaton training I found a lot of the staff where still not using Makaton. So I started a Makaton sign of the week to encourage staff to use it and sent emails to staff to encourage them to use it. I tried to promote our Library to the parents and made question cards for the parents to take home with the books to help support them reading with the children. I also made a display for parents about different things they can do at home to encourage speaking and listening. Made a speech and language leaflet for parents of children who struggle with their speech and language skills. Parents just don’t seem interested in using our library I have tried advertising it on tapestry and facebook but had no response. So this half term I have just starting sending books home with children therefore I currently don’t know the impact this will have. To monitor the success of the project I went back to staff and asked their opinions again, and through continued observations of the children and staff interactions.

What would we do differently

  • We carried out the Makaton training the week we broke up for Christmas it would have been better to carry this out at the start of a term so people had a chance to use it when it was fresh in their minds.
  • I would have involved staff more at the beginning of the project to achieve greater buy-in and support in achieving the aims of the project.
  • I would have liked to have carried out more Wellcomm activities on top of the attention and listening activities
  • I would have liked to engage parents more by inviting them into the setting but due to risk assessments this has not been possible.


We spent £2000 in total:

  • £450 on training and staffs time to attend
  • £350 on staff time to make resources and carry out weekly activities.
  • £1200 on resources
  • Also the cost to release an EY practitioner for ½ a day per week, for 1 year to attend training, write an action plan, undertake relevant duties and monitor progress.

Resources required

Access to a laptop and internet connection to attend virtual training & network meetings.

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Early Years @ Highfield-Whitehouse

Jo Tribe

Early Years Educator/ Family support assistant/Early Years implantation Lead